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Opening Arguments

Another giant leap

Wise words from first-man-on-the-moon  and Purdue graduate Neil Armstrong, from his commencement address at the University of Southern California:

Custom dictates that a commencement speaker give a word of advice to the new graduates. And I feel a sense of discomfort in that responsibility as it requires more confidence than I possess to assume that my personal convictions merit your attention. The single observation I would offer for your consideration is that some things are beyond your control. You can lose your health to illness or accident. You can lose your wealth to all manner of unpredictable sources. What are not easily stolen from you without your cooperation are your principles and your values. They are your most important possessions and, if carefully selected and nurtured, will well serve you and your fellow man. Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program for the human character. And what will that future bring? I do not know, but it will be exciting.

Yes, the future will be exciting, but not always in the areas we expect or hope the advances will be made. Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon is the single most astonishing thing I have ever seen, on TV or off. My God, that was the start of something big, our grand adventure that would propel the human race out to . . .

. . . well, not so much. Speaking of astonishing, how did we come to a point where we could do something so daring, so breathtaking, and then just let it drop? Science-fiction writer Jerry Pournelle, quoted in the linked piece, says it best:

“I always knew that I’d see the first man on the moon, but I never dreamed that I’d see the last.”